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AMC is definitely trending, and this month, CableU is taking a closer look. On Monday morning, April first, five of The Hollywood Reporter’s Top 10 Popular stories were about AMC , as THE WALKING DEAD finale pulled record ratings the night before and MAD MEN drew rave reviews in anticipation of its sixth season premiere the following week. All this from a network that featured only black and white films just 11 years ago.

The channel's name originally stood for "American Movie Classics," but since 2002, only the AMC initials have been used, as movies from all genres and eras began to fill the air. In 2007, AMC debuted the now iconic original series MAD MEN, followed in 2008 with BREAKING BAD, giving AMC a reputation on par with HBO and FX. Ratings success was achieved with THE WALKING DEAD, which launched in 2010. AMC Networks went public in 2011, putting financial pressure from shareholders into the mix. Since then there have been noticeable moves toward more commercially safe territory such as off-net acquisition CSI: MIAMI and the addition of competition reality to the mix. In 2012, AMC premiered four reality shows: INSIE THE DHS, THE PITCH, COMIC BOOK MEN and SMALL TOWN SECURITY. FREAKSHOW and IMMORTALIZED joined the line-up in 2013.

AMC is infamous for its highly serialized dramas that can be easily classified into an established genre, while also pushing the boundaries of the genre.  With its stellar reputation drawing top talent in the business, the development process is competitive, even by cable standards. A handful of programs are in the works for the upcoming season, each borrowing from a different classic movie or television genre, such as legal thrillers, detective dramas and westerns. There are also period dramas, ranging from Revolutionary War times to the silicon bubble ‘80s. Not to be pigeonholed, a TV version of the You Tube Channel’s ALL STAR CELEBRITY BOWLING is also on the table.

With just two nights of non-movie programming, AMC tends to fill Monday through Wednesday with themed movie mini-weeks. On various weeks this month Monday through Wednesday nights hosted marathons of a featured movie (LOTR: The Two Towers this month), a sci-fi theme, and “Story Notes,” which adds trivia and games to the movies. There was also one week of a WALKING DEAD marathon leading up to the season finale. Sunday and Thursday nights are home to original series. Thursdays feature a mix of reality programming and past seasons of Sunday night’s drama series. Sunday nights rotate through  new seasons of AMC’s high-profile dramas, with THE WALKING DEAD finishing up in March, and MAD MEN following in April. The primetime audience skews slightly male (57%), and delivers evenly between 18-49 and 25-54 demos.

Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison /March 2013 vs. March 2012  (% Change)




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MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

MARCH 2013: AMC was home to the television ratings story of the month this March as THE WALKING DEAD ran away with game-changing live (and timeshifted) numbers. THE WALKING DEAD dominated the night on Sunday, March 31, “obliterating traditional lines between cable and broadcast television,” boasted network president Charlie Collier, and he wasn’t exaggerating. According to AMC, the series' season average is also number one for the broadcast season for adults 18-49 for all of television, outdelivering everything including THE BIG BANG THEORY, THE VOICE and MODERN FAMILY. The ultimate ratings grabber finale was up against formidable competition including March Madness championship games, HBO’s premiere of THE GAME OF THRONES and Discovery’s THE BIBLE (on Easter Sunday). No doubt the program is a winner, drawing millions of loyal fans in its third season and helping to boost AMC’s bottom line primetime demo delivery by over 30% vs. last year.

AMC’s signature 9-10PM Sunday night hour is a force unto itself, with MAD MEN and then BREAKING BAD queued up to take over the slot. But a network can’t hang its hat on just one hour a week (even if it is Don Draper’s hat). Lets look at what else was going on at AMC this March.

First, THE WALKING DEAD was repackaged and reused across the week. Following THE WALKING DEAD premiere was THE TALKING DEAD, a Monday morning water cooler show packaged as a live talk show on Sunday nights. It took on a new life in its second season, pulling some of the highest 18-49 ratings across the increasingly competitive dial. The third highest rated program on the 18-49 demo was THE WALKING DEAD MARATHON.  There were also multiple encores, whether it be on premiere night or scattered throughout the week. All told, it added up to 38 hours of WALKING DEAD related programming this month, or 36% of the primetime schedule. Ratings were so dominant, those 36% of hours equaled over 75% of AMC’s 18-49 gross ratings for the month.

Other programming around the dial included the mini-week themes on Mondays through Wednesdays. While the WALKING DEAD marathon was the most successful theme, a close runner-up was the “Prime Movie With Story Notes,” which is a well-known movie with a trivia contest promotion built in. Science fiction movies, which ran under the “Can’t Get Enough Sci-Fi” umbrella, pulled the lowest numbers.

While Sunday night was cause for celebration, original programming on Thursday nights stumbled. FREAKSHOW, COMIC BOOK MEN and IMMORTALIZED came in at the bottom of the ratings rankers. COMIC BOOK MEN is 80% off its pace vs. last year, while newer programs FREAKSHOW and IMMORTALIZED lost 13% and 40% of their 18-49 audience vs. last month. Even with the occasional WALKING DEAD encore thrown into the mix, Thursday night lost 24% of its ratings vs. last month and 37% vs. last year. Thursdays were hands down the lowest rated night of the week.

Friday night’s movies were unremarkable in the ratings department, but Saturday's “Premiere Event” umbrella popped with Lord of the Rings and Godzilla.

AMC is not without its challenges, but the network has become a master at packaging and marketing. The new tagline, “Something More” was designed to speak to the level of programming found at AMC, and as Linda Schupack, AMC’s evp of marketing says, “we are eclectic, we are not just one thing.”